Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story

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Veronica, MyLifeLine.org Member and Breast Cancer Survivor

Veronica’s doctor found a small lump during an annual physical and assured her it was probably nothing to worry about. She was told to have an ultrasound and biopsy done, just to be certain.

“I was a little alarmed but I just didn’t think cancer fit me,” Veronica recalled. “It was hard to process. I was dumbfounded that cancer could happen to me.”

On the way home from learning of her breast cancer diagnosis, Veronica passed a church sign that read, “Do not fear for I am with you.” She relied on her faith to bring her strength and comfort during her cancer journey.

“Even though I was prepared spiritually for a challenge like this and I was trusting God through the whole thing, I had to come to terms with what I was facing,” Veronica reflected. “You have to realize that this could be the end. This could be a death sentence and I had to be willing to take that if that’s where God wanted me to go.”

Veronica’s treatment began with a mastectomy and reconstruction. Her oncologist didn’t recommend chemotherapy or radiation treatment so Veronica eventually ended up taking supplements designed from her bloodwork instead.

“My body has always been sensitive. I was terrified that if I got chemo or radiation it would kill me when tiny tumor wasn’t a big deal,” she remembered. “I went with the supplements for a year and I’ve been fine ever since.”

Writing was an important outlet for Veronica during her cancer journey and continues to be today. She started blogging on her MyLifeLine.org site and found the responses to be so positive that she was inspired to write a book about her experience.

“I learned that I do not have to perform to be loved,” Veronica reflected. “My family and friends were so attentive and concerned and so kind during that time. The whole process of learning that people were there for me when I was at my most vulnerable was surprising.”

Veronica’s book is titled It’s Okay To Be Me: A Journey to God’s Heart by Way of Cancer.

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Those That Were, Those That Are, Those That Will No Longer Be

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Joni, MyLifeLine.org member and breast cancer survivor

This is a guest blog post by Joni, a MyLifeLine.org member and breast cancer survivor. She shares her feelings on the eve of her mastectomy.

On the eve of my surgery, I have been saying goodbye. And not just to my breasts, although the loss of a body part/parts has definitely sent my thoughts whirling.

Life is a series of goodbyes. It is a litany of things lost, and others gained. I sometimes grieve the loss of my children at the ages they used to be: snuggling newborns, feisty toddlers, curious preschoolers; I miss their chubby, dimpled hands and soft baby hair and their wondrous discoveries. Yet I couldn’t be happier with who they are at this moment. And the thought of all the years left, stretching out before us with promise, brings me immense joy. I also miss: the various stages of my life-gone-by, the places I used to live, my family every time we have to part, the loved ones who have departed this earth. And yes, I will miss my “girls.”

The breasts that were:
My first breast-memory is when I was two years old. My preschool teacher was trying to comfort me as I cried after my mom dropped me off. With my head bowed, I stared directly into her two giant, pendulous boobies. My separation anxiety dissipated immediately and I ran to play with my friends!

When my own little buds starting coming in at about age ten, I was horrified. At the time, my favorite past-time was football with the neighborhood boys, and I was surprised and disappointed that my body had decided it was time to make me a “woman.” I put warm ace bandages around my chest in the hopes that I would never have to wear a bra. Hmmph.

Despite all my best efforts, I grew into a healthy C/D cup. I was actually quite happy with that, and they served me well, until I got pregnant. Pregnancy had the same effect on my boobs that Christmas had on the Grinch’s heart. Well, almost. His heart grew three sizes, my boobs grew four. And then there was breastfeeding. I was far from being a natural. For weeks, every feed was a struggle and my youngest had such a hard suck he left my nipple hanging by a thread. But once it clicked, I was so grateful that I stuck with breastfeeding. It still amazes me that I was able to produce the nourishment that fed my babies.

The best word to describe what was left after three pregnancies and a sum total of thirty-six months of breastfeeding? Deflation. “Tube socks with rocks on the bottom,” as my mom is fond of saying. My daughter once asked me why my boobs touched my belly button. To be honest, until this year, I had become a bit indifferent to them. I thought that the worst thing about them was that they were not too attractive. Hmmph.

The breasts that are:
I just spent a week with my sister and her newborn baby, and was reminded how beautiful that bond is between mother and child. The time I spent with the two of them during this magical period was remarkably healing for me. It was a reminder that no matter how difficult things get, there is always something wonderful waiting just around the corner. I loved every moment of that week: his sweet baby smell, his cozy body swaddled against my chest, his little piglet noises when he was ready to feed, even his dirty diapers. I loved watching my sister as a momma, a role that fits her perfectly. Seeing her breastfeed made me grateful I was able to do the same, despite the fact that my breast rebelled on me. And rebel it did.

Although it has shrunk considerably, I am still living with a palpable cancer. The tumor is a demonstration in immortality, a daily reminder of biology-gone-wrong and of the fact that if I didn’t get treated it would eventually kill me. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go, but there is something sad about having a large piece of your womanhood go with it.

The breasts that will no longer be:
Tomorrow I head in for my surgery. On the left, I will be getting a modified radical mastectomy, which means they will not only remove all of the breast tissue and nipple, but every single one of my axillary (underarm) lymph nodes, the soft tissue under my arm, and potentially some muscle; on the right I will get a standard mastectomy. I should be in the hospital for one night and then I will be back in the care of my fantastic loved ones.

Tonight I’m saying goodbye. To cancer. To life before this moment. To my two friends who passed away on my last day of chemotherapy. To the person I was before this wild experience. And yes, to my breasts/boobs/knockers/ladies/melons/milkcans/hooters/moo-moos. Until we meet again…

About the Author: Joni is a happily married 41-year-old mom to 3 children (ages 6, 10, 12). She works as an academic pediatrician and feels that her job treating patients and teaching future physicians is a privilege. Outside of work, Joni loves running, writing, strategy board games, traveling, hiking, snowboarding, and hanging with family and friends. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in March 2014. In addition to fighting with chemo, surgery, and radiation, she’s given cancer an extra kick with exercise, a positive attitude, and writing about her experience on MyLifeLine.org

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Stephanie’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Story

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Stephanie, MyLifeLine.org Member

Stephanie’s life with metastatic breast cancer is unique. She was first diagnosed in 1991 and has been living creatively with it ever since.

Prior to her diagnosis, Stephanie lived a cancer-proof lifestyle. She was involved in natural medicine for many years and even worked in a natural foods store. A rare genetic disorder and an abundance of health issues throughout her life made her predisposed to cancer. Stephanie originally noticed a chain of lumps in her left breast that she said was hard to ignore.

When she was diagnosed with cancer Stephanie was shocked, but instantly adopted a take charge attitude that’s helped her throughout the years.

She reflected, “I think now 20 something years into it I have this incredible sense of wonder, like ‘Why am I still alive, when so many people I’ve met through cancer aren’t. What am I here for?’”

Stephanie tried many different treatments throughout the years, but said she hasn’t done as much chemotherapy as one might think. “I’ve done a lot of alternative treatment. In the conventional realm, I’ve done a lot of surgery and hormonal therapy,” she recalled.

Stephanie said cancer changed the landscape of her life.

“I went from working to not working. I went from partnered to not partnered. I went from low middle income to very, very low income. I went from physically fit to being disabled. There have just been so many changes. I went from being afraid of death and dying – to not,” she reflected.

Stephanie emphasized the importance of discovering who you are when you receive a cancer diagnosis. “Find out who you are. Make good choices that are consistent with that and find good allies in the medical world and in your personal life.”

She has also learned the importance of having good people in her life. Stephanie received help from many people to stay as independent as possible throughout the years.

“I recognize how much I need good people. A lot of them have been here all throughout and new people have come in,” Stephanie reflected. “I’ve developed many good friendships while living with cancer.”

MyLifeLine.org has been an outlet for Stephanie to communicate her feelings through her writing and to stay connected to friends, family and even strangers who’ve found her site.

“For me it is a way to condense or consolidate my feelings and thinkings about my experience so I can share it with a lot of people without having to hunt them down,” Stephanie said. “I’m very grateful to stay connected with so many good people.”

Read more about Stephanie’s inspirational story by visiting her MyLifeLine.org personal site.

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